Jason Stephens | May 26, 2023 | Texas Law
Getting called for jury duty can be annoying. If you’re already busy with work, family life, and other obligations, you may not have the time to dedicate to serving. Plus, you won’t know if the case will last a day, a week, or even multiple weeks until it’s too late. For these reasons, it’s common for people to think about how to avoid jury duty.
Obligation To Respond To Jury Summons
In Texas, all citizens must respond to a summons for jury duty. Both The U.S. Constitution and Texas Constitution guarantee people the right to have a case heard by an impartial jury of their peers. As a result, citizens are randomly called to serve throughout the year. Some people will never get called for jury duty, while others may be called multiple times.
When you receive a jury summons in Fort Worth, you can go online and respond to the summons electronically. At this point, you can register or request an exemption. If you are requesting an exemption, such as for a scheduling conflict, you should produce evidence. However, you are not guaranteed to receive an exemption for any reason.
How Are Jurors Selected in Texas?
Just because you were called to serve on a jury doesn’t mean you will be chosen to serve. First, you must go through the jury selection process.
It may start with you filling out a questionnaire with information about:
- Your job
- Your address
- Covid-19 and your health
- Prior jury service
Usually, you are then called into the courtroom with 50-60 other prospective jurors. At that point, the lawyers will ask questions of the jurors through a process known as voir dire. The questions are designed to eliminate jurors with unfair biases and make sure that the jury is fair and impartial.
You will be sworn under oath during voir dire, and you must tell the truth.
Common Reasons Jurors Are Dismissed
Even though you can’t lie during voir dire, there are many reasons that jurors are dismissed or exempt from serving. You may be surprised to learn that one or several of these apply in your case.
Under Texas Law, jurors are exempt if they:
- Are over the age of 70
- Have legal custody of a child under 12 and do not have alternative supervision
- Are a student in high school
- Are enrolled in and attending college
- Are an employee in the legislative branch of the government
- Are the primary caretaker of someone who cannot take care of themselves
- Are in the military deployed and on active duty
- Served on a jury in the prior 24 months
- Cannot attend because jury service falls on a religious holiday
- Have a certain physical or mental impairment
- Cannot understand the English language
It’s also common for jurors to be dismissed because they are impartial or hold a bias that makes them unfit for a particular jury. For example, if you are called in a car accident civil case and have recently been hurt in a car accident, you may not be able to fairly consider the evidence.
You may also be able to reschedule your jury service if you have a schedule conflict.
Penalty For Skipping Jury Duty
It may seem harmless to skip jury duty, but there are penalties if you aren’t exempt. You may be fined anywhere from $100 – $1,000 for failing to respond to the summons. If you file a false exemption or don’t show up to court without a reasonable excuse, you can be fined $100 – $500.
While jury duty can be a hassle, it is never worth lying or violating the law to get out of it.
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